Malpractice Suits Against Design Professionals: Elements You Will Need to Prove

A malpractice case against a design professional, such as an architect, can be made when a design professional fails to satisfy the applicable standard of care. Arizona recognizes design professionals have a duty to use ordinary skill, care, and diligence in rendering services, and must use their skill and care to provide specifications and plans that are sufficient and adequate. Donnelly Const. Co. v. Oberg/Hunt/Gilleland, 139 Ariz. 184, 677 P.2d 1292 (1984).

The other elements of negligence must also be proven, including breach of duty, proximate cause, and damages. However, not every mistake by an architect will be considered a breach of the applicable standard of care. Unless an architect expressly warrants that their work will be free of inaccuracies, the law will not imply a warranty that requires perfection in the architect’s work. An architect’s can be inaccurate or imperfect without rising to the level of a breach of the standard of care. Chaney Bldg. Co. v. City of Tucson, 148 Ariz. 571, 716 P.2d 28 (1986).

Arizona also has a certificate of merit statute, which requires a claimant who is suing a licensed professional to certify whether or not expert testimony is required to prove the standard of care. A.R.S. § 12-2602.  The statute requires a claimant who certifies expert testimony is needed provide a preliminary expert opinion affidavit with the initial disclosures required under the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure.

Determining whether negligence occurred in a particular case will usually be a question of fact. The contract likely be referenced to show whether or not the architect fulfilled all of their obligations under the professional standard of care.

In some cases, negligence per se can be established if the architect violated a regulation, such as a building code. The Board of Technical Registration, which regulates architects and engineers in Arizona, should also be notified by the plaintiff asserting a malpractice case against a design professional as required by A.R.S. § 32-146.

In some cases, malpractice claims against design professionals are caused by miscommunications or unclear expectations. A carefully drafted contract and good communication throughout the project can help prevent many of these malpractice claims.

Chernoff Law handles real estate litigation cases throughout Arizona. Contact us by calling 480-719-7307 to talk to an experienced real estate attorney.